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The Playhouse was the last theatre to be built in Bournemouth, and has stood in its present form since 1971. It owes its existence to the Bournemouth Little Theatre Club for whom it was opened in 1931 as the Palace Court Theatre.

Through the 30s, 40s and 50s it was a focal point for drama in Bournemouth. At this time there were administrative offices and accommodation facilities alongside the theatre in what is now the staff quarters of the Palace Court Hotel. By 1966, rising costs made it obvious that amateurs could no longer afford the Palace Court Theatre. Louis Michaels bought the theatre in 1970 and created the Galaxy cinema in the old Green Room downstairs. During the next eight years the Playhouse was a repertory theatre.

Like most such theatres the Playhouse suffered falling audiences and for a time went over completely to film. In 1983 it returned to live theatre but on the death of Louis Michaels, it was put on the market and sold to the Assemblies of God who had been hiring it for Sunday services. A change of use to a church was allowed on appeal, but the use was made personal to the present owners so that, on any change of ownership, the permission would lapse. The stage areas etc have, since then, remained virtually untouched, though the Galaxy cinema has been stripped and is a lecture room with kitchen.

The first Seal & Hardy design published c.1930 had a vaguely Egyptian cinema-style façade but, as built, it was a frank paraphrase of the Portland stone façade of Stone’s London Whitehall Theatre. Inside is a fairly plain, typically 1930s interior with single balcony. The acoustics are excellent for the spoken word, and it is the only theatre in Bournemouth fully suitable for plays, the Pier Theatre being against the elements of the sea and weather, and the Pavilion far too big.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1931 - 1987
Current state
Current use
Religious centre (Church)
Hinton Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 2EN, England
Further details
Other names
Palace Court Theatre , Little Theatre , Wessex Christian Centre
  • 1931 Design/Construction:
    Seal & Hardy
    - Architect
  • 1931 - 1970 Owner/Management: Bournemouth Little Theatre Club
  • 1931 - 1987 Use:
  • 1939 Alteration: redecorated; ten seats added; orchestra pit added
    - Architect
  • 1970 - 1983 Owner/Management: Louis Michaels (personally)
  • 1978 Alteration: theatre totally refurbished and projection equipment installed; green room converted to Galaxy cinema to create twin cinemas
    Felix Holton
    - Architect
  • 1983 - 1987 Owner/Management: Louis I Michaels Ltd (after death of above)
  • 1987 Owner/Management: Wessex Christian Centre
  • Capacity
    553 (348 stalls, 205 balcony)
  • Capacity
    1946: 563
  • Capacity
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 7.38m Width SL wing: 2.5m SR wing: 3m
Proscenium width: 8.62m x 5.8m
Height to grid: 12m counterweight, 8 hemp lines, flying
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: Originally none. Later for 16.